Pasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan

Pasta with lightly toasted cauliflower florets cooked in a sauce of tomato, anchovies, onions, garlic, parsley and Parmesan.

Pasta Cauliflower Tomato Parmesan
Elise Bauer

Move over kale, cauliflower is now the "it girl" these days. There are just so many wonderful dishes you can make with it!

This simple pasta with cauliflower, tomato, and Parmesan is a great example. I've adapted the recipe from a Sicilian recipe by Vincent Schiavelli that appeared years ago in Saveur.

It's outrageously good; I've been eating the leftovers for days, which just seem to get better as the flavors have more time to meld.

The secret ingredient?

Pasta Cauliflower Tomato Parmesan
Elise Bauer


Okay, so I'm weird. I'm one of those people to whom you can say "cauliflower" and "anchovies" and I'll start salivating. I'll take cauliflower any which way (though IMHO roasted is best) and anchovies?

Well anchovies are one childhood prejudice ("hold the anchovies!") I've happily outgrown. (Thankfully, along with my childhood anti-opera and country music sentiments, too. What is it with kids not liking things before they've ever tried them?)

No, the anchovies will not make this dish taste like fish. They will however give it an indescribable savoriness (umami) that will make you want to eat the whole bowl.

Updated with new photos from the recipe archive. First published Nov, 2009.

Pasta with Cauliflower, Tomato, and Parmesan

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 4 servings

Variations to this recipe include adding some toasted pinenuts or walnuts, a few raisins, and or some saffron.


  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs*
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 2 and 4 Tbsp
  • 1 onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons anchovies packed in oil, minced (about 6 anchovies)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, core removed and discarded, florets coarsely chopped (see How to Cut and Core Cauliflower)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
  • 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped, or diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • * To make breadcrumbs, chop up about 3 slices of day old bread. Pulse in blender or food processor until you have small crumbs.


  1. Toast breadcrumbs:

    Toast crumbs in a little olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat until lightly browned. Remove crumbs from skillet and set aside.

  2. Sauté onions with garlic and anchovies:

    Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet on medium low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and anchovies.

    Crush the anchovies with the back of a spoon so that they smear well over the onions. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.

    While you are cooking the onions, put a large pot of salted water (1 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water) for the pasta on the stove to boil.

    Elise Bauer
  3. Sauté cauliflower florets:

    Heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet on medium high heat. Add the cauliflower, stir infrequently, allowing the cauliflower edges to brown. Cook until the cauliflower florets are lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes to the pan, and salt and pepper to taste.

    Elise Bauer
  4. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, onion mixture:

    Dissolve tomato paste in 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat to low. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and anchovies, stir to combine well.

    Cook, uncovered, on low heat, until the cauliflower is tender.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  5. Cook pasta, add to cauliflower mixture:

    Cook the pasta, uncovered, in salted boiling water until just al dente, according to the pasta package's cooking directions. Drain the pasta from the cooking water and add the cooked pasta to the cauliflower mixture.

    Stir in about half of the parsley, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan (leave the rest for garnish on top).

    Makes great leftovers as the flavors have more time to blend.


Sicilian Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

Pasta with cauliflower, walnuts, and feta from Deb of Smitten Kitchen

Spinach fettucine with cauliflower and bacon from Blue Kitchen

How to Cut and Core Cauliflower tips here on Simply Recipes